Written by Manu del Hoyo Sanz
Betting on MMA is not different from betting on any other sport or event in the sense that ultimately you are betting the numbers. It comes down to getting value on your plays, gaining a statistical advantage over the market and beating it consistently which ultimately will reflect on your bankroll in a positive way.
When it comes to MMA, the most important factor is actually predicting what is going to happen in a certain matchup, as dumb as that may sound. I am talking about predicting how a specific clash of styles between two human beings is going to look at a high clip and from there, addressing the chances of different scenarios developing in the fight and the subsequent outcomes we can reasonably expect.
Due to MMA being a multidimensional sport, involving striking, ground action, all sorts of grappling, clinching and more, which multiplies exponentially the number of possible scenarios in a fight, MMA becomes one of the hardest markets for the bookies to handicap, thus becoming one of the softest markets for a sharp eye to beat.
Let´s take a closer look at one of the fights this Saturday at UFC London that will surely get a lot of action on the betting lines, Makwan Amirkhani vs Jonathan Pearce in the featherweight division. At the time of this writing Makwan Amirkhani sits as a 2.75 odds underdog, which is very surprising in my opinion. The market is giving him an implied chance of 36.4% to win this fight.
If we look at the tale of the tape, Amirkhani is the much more proven fighter and has fought opposition of a much higher level than Jonathan Pearce. He also has better wins. But let´s look at how they match up.
Jonathan Pearce is primarily a grappler with some power in his hands, he always just tries to impose his size and will on his rivals via the grappling heavy approach since the early going in his fights. He is very hittable and somewhat chinny, and very careless with his neck positioning in grappling situations. Overall he looks like a fighter that will keep beating low to mid level opposition in the UFC dominantly and get destroyed by the better guys.
Makwan Amirkhani is also a grappler, a pure grappler in his case. He is an extremely strong individual for his size and has proven time and time again he can dominantly wrestle people early in fights pretty much at will if he decides to go for it. He sometimes gasses later in fights, but his gas tank has looked quite better lately and we saw Jonathan Pearce fade a bit himself in his last outing against a much smaller man. Amirkhani is famous for his front choke series, he is lethal from that position and probably has the best anaconda choke in the game.
So what are the possible scenarios in this fight? I would say they are pretty clear. I don´t think Pearce can dominate Amirkhani grappling, at least when fresh, in fact I expect Amirkhani to ragdoll him early grappling wise. Scenario number one would be Pearce initiating the grappling, where he will probably find himself in danger of getting submitted fast. If he doesn´t get finished, the fight will develop into an extended grappling match.
Second scenario is Pearce tries to strike at distance, which undoubtedly will result into Amirkhani grappling aggressively himself early, leading to scenario number one, or perhaps could result in a low pace staring match in which case Amirkhani can probably limit action on the feet, which he is great at, and find enough opportunistic takedowns and big moments to win a couple rounds at worst.
This all points at this fight being a grappling heavy contest in which I consider Amirkhani the bigger, better and stronger overall grappler with more finishing upside. In my opinion he should be a decent sized favourite in this spot and I expect him to find a choke early in round one or worst case scenario have enough wrestling success to take two rounds and take the win home again.
The pick is Makwan “Mr Finland” Amirkhani to win by submission, probably via anaconda choke.